Excuses, Something else, Nano Poblano

Day 30. The final day. Last post of the month. I blogged every day in November!

HUZZAH!

*Clears throat*

Well.

Almost.

I kind of succeeded 93% of the time. I blogged 28/30 days. Which is a 7% fail. Which is still 28 more posts I might have done otherwise. But also. I’m not sure if that’s how this works.

And while I say 93% success, I cheated on some of those. Cheated within the rules but against my own brain’s blogging standards. Brain expects more than simply blogging everyday. Brain says I have to write proper, meaningful posts. Photo-posts are a no-no, imbedding music videos with the hashtag ‘currentmood’ doesn’t meet the grade. A post where I waffle on with excuses of tiredness – CODSWALLOP!

Which means Brain thinks I had a 56.6% success rate. I can round that figure up, right?

Fortunately for me, in recent years, I’m better at ignoring that part of my brain.

So, thank you team Cheer Peppers! Thank you to those who found the time to read my posts and those who were able to leave a comment. Thank you Ra, for Nano Poblano.

Well done everyone, whatever your success rate – never forget that you blog for yourself!

*Group hug*


nanopoblano1

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Off the Back of NaBloPoMo

Or as we Tiny Peppers like to call it, Nano Poblano.

Or, as I’ve been calling it lately (today), NaNo Problemo.

So, Day 30. Here I am, I took you on. I won. The only day-fail coming off the back of an ice skating accident and taking my friend to Emergency. Friday the 13th and all. But I caught you up.

IN YOUR FACE, November. IN. YOUR. FACE.

*ahem*

So, where am I at? What will this mean? Has it changed my life?

Meh. Huh? Maybe.

Time will tell. Today, I feel I will blog more often, which honestly, is a stupid thing to say because blogging more often than I did before NoBloPoMo won’t exactly be a stretch. But, irrespective of whether I do or don’t – I know I can. I’ve blogged every day for a month. WOOT! Two years ago I didn’t think I’d ever do that, the very thought would have made me vomit.

Not literally. Obviously.

I’ve been forced to rein in my self editor (who’s normally brutal). And I’ve been posting with mistakes. I been posting without twenty-million re-reads. Without relying on my husband’s proof-reading.

Congratulations to those who took on NaBloPoMo and/or Nano Poblano and won. And congratulation to those who gave NaBloPoMo and/or Nano Poblano a go. There are no losers. You’re all amazing.

And I wish to thank you. All those people who’ve found me here during my thirty day blogging frenzy with special thanks to those who’ve taken the time to leave a comment. I have found new friends here.

And thank you, Ra. You have no idea how much awesome you make.

Painting By Numbers

Not long after we bought our house, I decided to paint our bedroom olive green. A colour similar to this blog’s background colour (if your computer’s able to display it). I had this colour in my mind’s eye – this bold, deep and soothing green. I grabbed a handful of colour samples from the hardware store and picked the green of my dreams. Then I had second thoughts. Was it too bold? Too deep? Too green? Bowing to caution, I selected a softer, paler, safer green at the paint shop. Perhaps predictably, it didn’t quite meet my expectations. It wasn’t awful though, and not wanting to put us through the painting process again (and I hate being wasteful), it was another three years before we tried again with the shade I should have used in the first place.

I don’t trust my instincts enough. My impending-failure internal sensors can’t seem to distinguish between mistakes that matter and ones that don’t. In this instance, not only did the mistake not matter, but I only made the mistake in my attempts to save myself from it. *Creates wormhole*

This is taking fear of failure to Level Stupid. Which, oddly enough, reminds me of this poem:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

I’ve always loved this poem, but often wondered if that love was born from envy. I remember reading it for the first time at secondary school unable to share the author’s inclination for the ‘road less travelled’. I mean, why was it ‘grassy’? What was wrong with it? Did it flood? Did it peter out until you were lost? Did it take you to a cliff that had partially slipped away and you had to either turn back or rock climb? Perhaps its use had ceased when someone discovered it ten miles longer and took you to exactly the same place as the other road. My instinct to pre-empt mistakes is so strong, I even question metaphors.

On the upside, I reckon I’ve saved myself from many inconveniences and embarrassments, and because I can perceive problems before they arise, I’m a great sounding board for issues. Equally, though, I’ve made decisions that have kept me on the safe road at the cost of experience and discovery, and I worry about things before they happen, even when events are out of my control and I hesitate at the point of doubt and procrastination, and I’m unable to move beyond it. What if there’s a avenue for failure I hadn’t predicted? So I stop, half way through a creative project with an overwhelming desire to quit before I fail. Leading to not failing, but not succeeding either.

20150126_135537This is one of my many idiosyncrasies that I’m trying to resolve. Sometimes I need to trust that it’ll work out, that the repercussions of it not working out on the scale of importance from Stupid to Death, is off the scale at Inconsequential. So this week I painted the spare room a deep turquoise blue without second guessing myself.

And yes, it’s perfect.

Imposter Syndrome

I’m not good with success. It’s a double edged sword. I am capable of that buzz of joy, I know what it is to feel pleased but there’s a tenuous fragility to it. A sarcasm that denounces it. A murmur that feels ever so slightly like a panic attack.

I’ve spoken about by inner critics before. My nasty destructive inner voices that take to my success with a cricket bat. I’ve also spoken how I’m trying to get know them better.

So first, to my little victory against my evil inner critics – I won a little Flash Fiction competition. This is a direct transcript of the text messages I shared with my husband (who was away for work at the time). He discovered my success and text me just as I arrived home from work.

HUSBAND: Hooray!!! You won Flash Friday!!! Congratulations!

ME: !!! April Fools?

HUSBAND: Nope. Check the Flash Friday blog for yourself. Even Remy [that’s my Twitter avatar image] gets his photo on the page.

ME: No. I kinda knew you were serious. But really, it wasn’t that great, was it?

HUSBAND: Course it was.

*logs into computer and checks for myself*

ME: Did you read the comments? Wow. When you read why she picked my story she makes it sound awesome.

HUSBAND: It *is* awesome. Now go and have a drink.

Looking back, I wish I’d made a more concerted effort to write down what my evil inner critics were saying , but I reverted back to my avoidance tactics. I tried blocking the voices instead of listening to them. Not that they had nothing constructive or helpful to say but listening to them helps me recognise the evil they are.

And here are my thought processes re-created:

I felt like a fraud. How could I win when there were ‘real’ writers far more worthy? Why would I win this when other stories were better? I wondered if it was a fluke. I wondered if it was an accident. Maybe the judge took pity on me. In trying to be happy for myself, I devalued it with thoughts like ‘there weren’t many people in the comp’, and ‘ it’s only one person’s opinion’.

***

This was in my drafts folder. I pulled it out when I read this awesome post, and again just now after reading this.

I honestly feel all these inadequacies. Other people don’t see them which does not make them less real to me, it just makes me hide them. I feel stupid. Some people argue with me with the very best of intentions, but I don’t want pity and I don’t want compliments – it’s simply how I feel. Knowing I should feel differently doesn’t really help.

However, knowing other people feel the same, does.

I believed for a long time that giving these negative feelings ‘air’ only let them breathe. That recognising them validated them, but I’ve started to realise avoiding them is more like covering a boiling pot.

If you feel a fraud, you’re not alone. Don’t let it stop you, don’t let it hold you back. Decide what is destructive and what is instructive.

Now all I have to do is take that advice myself.

 

And thank you for listening.

 

 

Next week: Cats

People on Pedestals

It makes sense we feel connections with people in the public eye. You observe them on television, in film, on stage or follow them through social media. You probably like their show, love their movie, own their art, listen to their music or read their writing. You probably feel, on some level, you know them.

I can understand all this, which makes it difficult for me to explain the ways I don’t understand.

Even as a teenager, at the alleged peak of celebrity obsessions, I was disinterested. I mean, I had ‘celebrity crushes’ but hanging pictures of these strangers on my bedroom wall (no matter how cute they were) seemed weird to me. What posters I did possess were stuck under the lid of my storage chest away from prying eyes – pictures of animals and ALF. Yes, ALF – who’s a puppet. While my pin-up choices made sense in my head, my friends were infatuated with television personalities, bands and film stars. When one friend tried to entice me to get an autograph from a local celebrity, I replied, ‘What for? He wouldn’t want mine’. I managed to confuse my friend, who couldn’t find an argument against it and nevertheless wandered off for the autograph without me.

That’s not to imply I wouldn’t want to meet the famous people I admire. Unfortunately, when those opportunities present themselves I imagine myself standing with a gazillion other people who may or may not be screaming for the off chance of a short conversation that may or may not be meaningless. Of course, this standard of mine means I’m unlikely to ever meet them in any capacity. Which perhaps makes me all the poorer.

Look. Can’t we just meet for a coffee?

I find myself feeling sorry for well-known people. Some are better at negotiating ‘celebrity’ than others but I often see the down side.

I follow Emma Watson on Twitter and some months ago now she tweeted this:

“I told my dad I am learning to touch type and he said he still uses the ‘hunt and peck’ technique. And now I’m crying laughing. #dads”

Charming, right? One of the responses to this comment was vile. Irrelevant and vile. At the time I saw it, it had thirteen RTs and several more tagged it as a favourite. I realise that’s a relatively small portion of her followers but I still got the heebie-jeebies on Emma’s behalf.

Then there was this photo that did the rounds on Twitter

 

Should this treatment be part of being famous? Really? Taking pictures of them doing things unrelated to their job? With their kids in the park? In the supermarket? But I guess it fills me with horror because I would hate it happening to me.

In my teens I witnessed a girl scream when she unexpectedly meet a actor from an Australian soapie. A short and shocked ‘argh!’ like she’d just uncovered a spider. I admit, it is odd seeing people from television/film in public (it’s a bit like when you’re a child and see your school teacher at the supermarket), but scream? Without meaning to sound like Spock, this response seemed illogical.

I once saw Miriam Margolyes at the airport (she notably played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films) and I kept well away. She looked like she wanted to be swallowed by the world and avoided making eye contact with anyone.

But there is a market for it. People buy celebrity magazines. I have family and friends who buy them. Some ‘celebrities’ probably buy them. And I don’t understand it at all. So when The Daily Post asked the question, ‘Who did you idolise as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?’, I couldn’t relate to this either.

I know I’ve way over-thought this, but sometimes I feel we use the word ‘idolise’ too freely; we feel it more than we think about why. We give more weight to attractiveness than we do to identity. We mix up actors with the characters they play, we confuse popularity with talent and fame with worth. What am I idolising exactly?

I don’t like people on pedestals. I’m not saying you can’t look up to people, only that I prefer admiration over adoration and respect over worship. Some of the kindest, extraordinary, admirable, inspiring and talented people are not well-known at all.

 

Who are your non-famous idols? Do you have an autograph of someone you admire and if so what does it mean to you?

 

Facing Your Inner Critic

On Wednesday, I arrived home from work with determination in my heart. I connected to my email account and a reminder pinged into my inbox. I expected it, I’d thought about it during the day, I wondered if this might be the right Wednesday. I opened up the email and I froze at the sight of five prompt words.

I told myself to keep it simple – pick one word or write a short poem, make it silly so when it’s bad it won’t matter. I can learn from writing badly, I can’t learn from not writing. Other voices intrude with ‘If you can’t include ALL the prompts you’re not a real writer’, ‘why bother when you can’t craft an award winning novella overnight?’ and ‘all your ideas are utter trite’. I tried thinking over the top of it and mentally plugged my fingers into my ears to trill ‘lalalalalalala’.

My determination waned. ‘Maybe next Wednesday…’

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The wisdom of A.A.Milne

This attempt got me thinking again about this link my friend Sinéad sent me last week. It references the work of Anne Lamott (I’m sorry that I don’t have the primary source), and she speaks of how she turns down the volume on her evil inner critic. Anne’s critical voices are certainly familiar to me and while I could identify with the words the imagery she applied to them was her own. My inner critics have different personalities and different faces.

Different faces. Up until reading Anne’s comments, my inner critics were faceless and I’ve always dealt with them by avoidance. They’re like the playground bully surrounded by its minions sitting on my favourite swing or waiting for me at the school gate. I’d walk the long way. I’d give up using the swing. Anything to avoid the confrontation. I’ve never looked my evil inner critics in the eye.

Maybe confrontation is in order. I need to stand beside them and notice they’re shorter than I remember. I need to hear all the rude, awful and insulting things they have to say so I can laugh with indifference. Maybe it’s high time I metaphorically kicked them in the shins.

My antagonists are as follows:

GuilteDum and QuittleDee
The twins. They play off each other, one making you feel guilty about not writing, the other reinforcing why you shouldn’t. They are heavy set, eight foot tall and carry baseball bats to claim taxes on the words you haven’t written. GuilteDum says, ‘You’re not writing, you’re not writing, you’re not writing’. QuittleDee choruses, ‘You’re not writing because you’re incapable’, ‘Give up, leave it! You don’t have it in you to write, so why waste your time?’, ‘Why write today, when you can write tomorrow?’

Doubtfire
Vampiresque figure, lanky with his hands clutched at his chest. He favours the shadows and speaks in hushed rasping tones. He creates doubt in the cruellest places of your heart. ‘You know they’re lying, don’t you?’, ‘They don’t mean it, your writing is actually awful and they’re just saying those other things to spare you from the truth’.

Termite
The shonky builder, dark angry eyes, ill-fitting jeans and unruly hair (Why this? *shrugs* No idea). He undermines all past successes – ‘That thing you wrote yesterday? Complete fluke’, ‘There is no chance you could do that again’, ‘Those certificates you have, obtained by chance’, ‘Give up, you’ve peaked already!’.

Wasp
Thin, stern looking woman carrying a ruler to wack you over the knuckles if you put a word wrong. Often she’s just plain insulting, ‘Stupid idea! Ridiculous! You have no hope of ever writing with ideas like that’, but occasionally she speaks a useful and helpful truth, ‘Urgh! Well that sentence isn’t working’. It’s just a shame she has to be so patronising.

What do your evil inner critics look like? Ask yourself – is your inner critic constructive or destructive? And if they’re destructive, shrink them like Alice in Wonderland and put them in a jar. They are good for nothing.

Measuring Art Against Success

78c620cb9f5c2744f4fdeb6832376c00When we can’t rationalise where success comes from, we begin to panic. It seems incongruous that something without apparent skill can be successful. And it begins to feel unpredictable, like it’s determined by numbers tumbling in a barrel and we’re all waiting for ‘Bingo’. Is there no skill in it at all? Is it all just luck? And we think of all the talented people and worry that success is finite – a show with a limited number of seats. Can’t we all have a share? We don’t begrudge another’s success, we just want to feel more in control of our chances.

There’s a painting in the National Gallery of Victoria. It consists of squares – three across and four down. Painted in oranges and reds and yellows, bordered in plum-brown. I look at it and I shrug. What’s so special about that? I could paint that. A six-year-old could paint that. I explain the painting to a friend, and she says, “I love that stuff!”. My expression of disbelief leads her to say, “Think of when it was painted, think about how it challenged convention.”

Composer John Cage wrote 4’33”. That is four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. When performed, I assume it is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of someone sitting a piano, wedged between the time it takes for the performer to enter and then exit the stage. I view it with sarcasm and wonder if they need a stopwatch. I could write that (I could play that), I would write that now if I it wasn’t for the copyright infringement. Then I listen to John Cage’s views on music and I find his passion for sound. He speaks of the sounds that exist in silence and believes that all sound is music. I still don’t really get it, but my perception has shifted.

google.comKen Done is an Australian artist. In 1980’s Australia, at the height of his popularity he influenced style, fashion and colour with his two dimensional Australian landscape paintings. And I felt he was over-rated. I saw no skill in his paintings. Then, in an interview, he explained how he admires children’s drawings and that no-one can draw quite like them. This insight made me look at his work differently.

What about a novelist who sticks to a formula and each new book is effectively the same. I have zero tolerance for formulaic predictable writing but then I happily hire a romantic comedy from the video store and enjoy it. And I realise that sometimes I don’t want a journey, sometimes I just want to get on a bus and go for a ride.

Then there’s the musician who writes one brilliant song but cannot seem to write beyond it. And while I claim to hate repetitive music, I then think of the exceptions lurking in my music collection. I have no tangible explanation for this – they simply resonate.

Many writers have cringed at the success of Fifty Shades, a book so well known I don’t need to include the full title. An erotic tale touted as badly written. I have not read it, and I cannot speak of its eloquence. But it was written. Started and finished. For that alone the author has my complete respect.

So what’s at play here?

The human aspect. If we knew what the general public wanted all businesses would thrive, all writers would be read, all music would be heard and all artists would be seen. We are human. We are unpredictable, hypocritical and contradictory. And we learn and change our minds. When it comes to phenomenal success, I’m sure that E.L. James and Psy did not predict it. When J.K. Rowling found success all she hoped to do was make enough money from writing to ‘get by’.

It’s a lottery of art in a barrel of success. If you keep putting in your numbers, it increases your chances of ‘Bingo’.

Art is a complex tapestry of controversy, aesthetics, talent, creativity and originality layered and interwoven with meaning, understanding and context. Success can be born from and driven by any number of these factors. It’s aided by timing and grown in curiosity and perpetuated by need. Success can then be clinically measured by popularity and monetary gain, but it’s true test is this – longevity.

Of course, it’s all tied together with one last element.

My opinion.

 

This blog post was inspired by SJ O’Hart. And this one by Chuck Wendig. Do read them.